This nearby small town becomes a water destination in summer

Ohiopyle’s population may be barely three dozen, but that number grows in the warmer months when visitors congregate at Ohiopyle State Park, an outdoor playground with pristine rivers and streams. Undulating roads lit by dappled sunlight lead to Ohiopyle Visitor Center, where you catch your first glimpse of the mighty Youghiogheny River. (That’s “yock-oh-ganey” for newbies.)

Lies in the Laurel Highlands, in southwestern Pennsylvania, Ohiopyle offers plenty of family-friendly activities, but the biggest draw is whitewater rafting. Enthusiasts travel from all over the world to race through the Class IV and V rapids of Youghiogheny. The experience is like a roller coaster ride with calm passages, slight swaying and churning rapids that require wild paddling to steer the spinning raft over boulders and narrow passages.

Photo courtesy of Go Laurel Highlands

Ohiopyle Outfitters Adventures in the white water and Ohiopyle Trading Post Run rafting tours for three different difficulty levels. Experienced thrill-seekers should choose Upper Young, with 10 miles of steep, narrow, technical whitewater. The Lower Young’s 7-mile trip is designed for intermediate paddlers and is led by a paddle captain. The Middle Young is ideal for beginners looking for a fun day on the river.

wilderness voyageurs offers the possibility to combine half a day of rafting with cycling Great Allegheny Passage This adventure is self-guided but assisted by a dog handler, who can upgrade from a raft to an inflatable kayak for the water portion.

fishing
Photo courtesy of Go Laurel Highlands

When trout season kicks off in the spring, anglers flock to Ohiopyle to cast their poles in the raging creeks. A half-day drift for two with Laurel Highlands Tour Guide includes a boat trip on the Youghiogheny with a guide who knows the best spots to find fish.

Between outdoor adventures, you need refreshments. Get breakfast at Fall Market Restaurant, along with supplies for the day, although many outfitters offer picnic lunches. Other popular options are the hand tossed cakes Paddler Pizza and smoothies and hot dogs Ohiopyle Bakery & Sandwich Shoppe. End your day with a scoop at the Ohiopyle Trading Post Hershey’s Ice Cream at the kickstand. Flavors change with the seasons, but Midnight Caramel River pays a fitting tribute.

After an unforgettable weekend on the river, you’ll be longing for more time to explore the mountains and rushing creeks of the undeveloped Laurel Highlands.

STAY

Though there are rustic vacation rentals like the Ohiopyle Treehouse, visitors looking for luxury accommodations should stay here nemacolin, a five-star resort nestled on 2,000 acres with panoramic views and just 10 minutes from Ohiopyle State Park. Options include the French-inspired chateau, the comfortable lodge, and elegant cottages for groups and families. Those staying on the property can enjoy all there is to do like the Woodlands Spa, a fitness center and pools, zip lining, skeet shooting, off-road jeep driving, paint and sip classes, a petting zoo, and gambling Lady Luck Casino. Dining options range from casual burgers at Mulligans to upscale dining experiences at Lautrec and Aqueous.

EAT

Locals and visitors alike meet on the terrace Falls City Pub Enjoy craft beer on tap while being accompanied by live music and the sounds of the rushing waterfalls. Located at the terminus of the Laurel Highlands walk, next to Wilderness Voyageurs, this pub is the perfect spot to disembark in grubby clothes and share tales of your day on the river. In the warmer months, you’ll enjoy the delicious barbecue aroma emanating from the pub’s smoker, enticing you to order ribs and chicken, but don’t miss the crispy wings.

This story originally appeared in our May issue. For more stories like this, Subscribe to to our monthly magazine.

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